Thursday, June 13, 2013

POW!!! Maryland’s Dynamic Duo About to Burst Onto the Scene – Big Cork Vineyards

It’s a bird, it’s a plane, its Batman and Superman!? Nope, it’s a couple of Maryland guys building a new state of the art winery! Drink Local Wine 2013 in Maryland is now more than a month ago, and I have written less than half of all the wine reviews I owe. I had an amazing time. Here’s another new jewel to add to the crown that is the growing reputation of Maryland’s renewed wine industry.
Lenn Thompson and I were tasting together at one point and came across a table where stood a one man and two bottles of wine labeled with hand written labels. We had no idea what we were in for – but I can tell you now, it was a special treat! The table was that of a newly emerging winery called Big Cork Vineyards.
Nestled on 100 rolling acres in Maryland’s Pleasant Valley, Big Cork Vineyards embodies the bold and expressive landscape of the region. For Big Cork Vineyards (BCV) President Randy Thompson, the rolling expanse of crops that once dotted his family farm was truly a field of dreams. Amid the rows of corn and hay, Randy envisioned a vineyard with a grand winery and tasting room. After a serendipitous encounter between Randy and local winemaker Dave Collins, BCV broke ground in May 2011. On 24 undulating acres in Pleasant Valley, Md., Dave planted 13 varietals, making BCV the second largest vineyard in Washington County.

The fields there are imbued with history. These grapes grow in the same spot where more than 150 years ago encampments of Union and Confederate troops once mustered during the Civil War. Big Cork Vineyards is centered in the historic rolling hills of southern Washington County, MD. a few miles from other historic tourist attractions such as the Antietam Battlefield, Harpers Ferry, the Appalachian Trail and the C&O Canal.

As a commitment to sustaining their land, they are mindful of their farming practices. BCV uses cover crops between planting rows to keep weeds at bay and maintains a raptor program for pest control.  The goal is to open the tasting room sometime in the summer of 2014. But the wines are being tasted at festivals and tastings across the state. They were recently tasting and selling at Wine in the Woods, one of Maryland’s premiere wine events in the state’s calendar.

Randy Thompson President & CEO transformed his family farm into a grand vineyard.  Since 1996, Randy has served as president and CEO of ThompsonGas, a family-owned and operated propane service provider, with 50-plus locations and 190,000 customers in 10 states. His talent and tenacity earned him SmartCEO magazine’s esteemed CEO of the Year award in 2011. Ernst & Young honored him as Entrepreneur of the Year in 2009. Prior to joining ThompsonGas, Randy served as a U.S. Marine Corps logistics officer during Operation Desert Shield and Storm.
Dave Collins Vice President of Operations & Master Winemaker has a degree in horticulture from Virginia Tech and more than 30 years of winemaking experience, Collins has been lauded for helping establish Northern Virginia as a premier destination for wine lovers. Previously with Breaux Vineyards, Dave’s wines have garnered hundreds of awards, including Best in Class Merlot and the Virginia Jefferson Cup for Viognier. At Big Cork, Dave oversees the growth and production of 24 acres and 13 varietals.
Teaming up this Dynamic Duo is a scary idea…scary in what they might achieve. They’re like some comic book supper pairing. Leap tall buildings? Stop a locomotive? Catch the Joker? What feats of daring will they perform?! These are two accomplished professionals. There’s a smart businessman and an excellent winemaker. And the early results are amazing. The sky is literally the limit.
Big Cork is already building a big reputation. They recently won five medals at the seventh annual Maryland Winemasters Choice Awards, including two Gold medals and a Best in Class acknowledgement. This annual competition precedes the Maryland Governor’s Cup Wine Competition, which is scheduled for Aug. 25. The following awards were collected:
•Best in Class (Off-Dry): Vidal 2012
•Gold Medal: Vidal 2012
•Gold Medal: Late Harvest Vidal Blanc 2012
•Silver Medal: Traminette 2012
•Bronze Medal: Chardonnay 2012 

Impressive for a winery that hasn’t even opened its doors yet. But Lenn and I didn’t know any of that before we took our first sip of Big Cork Cabernet Sauvignon Mountain Creek Vineyard 2012. I feel kind of stupid now. I should have done some more studying up before the Grand Tasting at Camden Yards that day in April. It was immediately obvious that Big Cork was impressive. The wine was a dark red-purple-ish elixir.  Black cherry, black berry and a hint of cassis. The same fruits came across on the palate with hints of vanilla, cocoa, and spice. The fruit was dark and cooked like a stew, so the acidity was kind of low, but the tannins were nice. The flavors of the wine lasted a nice long time. Impressive.

The next was the Big Cork Cool Hollow Meritage 2012. This is a single vineyard blend of Petit Verdot, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Cabernet Franc grown in deep limestone soils. Again, lots of dark fruit, like blackberry, dark cherries, bramble berry, black currant, and a hint of leckvar. Great fruit, low acidity, and modest tannins made for another impressive red wine.

No masks. No capes. No fancy gadgets. This pair of super heroes just carry a bunch of bottles of great wine! Both these wines which have not yet been released as far as I know were eye openers, and bode well for the upcoming Big Cork Vineyards.

Congrats gentlemen! And good luck! You are both great news for the rest of us!